‘Goode plan, wrong place’

A GOODE BEACH lobby group says the defunct Frenchman Bay Caravan Park site would be better for a five-star resort than Lot 660 La Perouse Road where the 51-unit project is controversially envisaged.

Frenchman Bay Association President Tony Kinlay said a strategic view of both the van park site and Lot 660 would confirm the former as the best for tourism development.

“The caravan park site would be ideal for the resort,” he said of the block at Whalers Beach that has languished with no tourists for more than a decade.

About two years ago, an application for a 30-unit resort at the van park was shelved after the association opposed its inclusion of 10 residential lots on the tourism-zoned site, sewerage plans and proposed sinking of bore holes.

“The owners of Lot 660 tick all those boxes,” Mr Kinlay said.

“They have 100 per cent tourism, a secondary sewer treatment works, and are prepared to fund the cost of a new reservoir with the Water Corporation.

“If only they owned that caravan park site, the association would be supportive of that being a resort.”

Mr Kinlay acknowledged the van park idea was “hypothetical” but said “it’s been quoted around Goode Beach”.

“It’s got fantastic views which they wouldn’t have from Lot 660,” he said.

“They wouldn’t disrupt our subdivision with traffic, and there’s a beach right there.”

Council candidate for Vancouver Ward Matt Benson-Lidholm said “the ducks would need to line up” for the idea to proceed.

“I don’t think it will be easy because both sites are obviously owned by different people,” he said.

He added the Lot 660 option was “not necessarily progress”, and “very much a retrograde step that’s fraught with dangers”.

“Over many, many years the tea rooms and the caravan park out there were very much an iconic part of tourism delivery in Albany,” the former state MP said.

“It was always a favourite spot to go on the weekend.

“It wasn’t lavish, it wasn’t five-star, it wasn’t anything more than a great place to go with family and friends to the waterfront and a great place for kids.”

Nicolette Mulcahy, vying to retain her Vancouver Ward seat, said she understood a “strong minority in excess of 40” Goode Beach residents supported a resort at Lot 660.

“I guess the greatest benefit of the caravan park site is that it would not impact on the local residents as much,”she said of the alternative.

“It would reduce the impact of through traffic, noise and use of the smaller residential precinct at Goode Beach.”

The third Vancouver Ward candidate, Tracy Sleeman, said the van park option was all well and good “but it’s not what’s on the table”.

“Not everyone out at Goode Beach is against this development,” she said, adding that a resort at Lot 660 would need to be environmentally sound to gain her support.

Vancouver Ward councillor John Shanhun did not return calls.

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Politicians under one umbrella for ‘yes’ vote

A LARGE turnout of supporters braved the elements on Saturday to show their support for a ‘yes’ vote in the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey at a rally at Albany’s Middleton Beach.

Minister for Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan, WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith, Greens member for the South West Diane Evers and member for Albany Peter Watson joined the rally and put aside their political differences, sharing the stage to add their support for a ‘yes’ vote.

Ms MacTiernan addressed the crowd and said the postal survey was all about equality.

“The people of Australia will say ‘yes’, we want equality,” she said.

“People don’t want to be living in the past.

“Australia has always been about equality, so let’s make sure we break down that last barrier to equality.”

Ms Evers encouraged people to support the campaign.

“As Alannah said, this should never have come to this point,” Ms Evers said.

“It’s not even a vote, it’s a survey; what a waste of money and what a waste of time.

“But, I think we are all determined to make sure we show a resounding ‘yes’.

“Down here on the South Coast and in O’Connor, we are pretty conservative, and they aren’t expecting much more than an equal vote, so let’s get out and show them what we really think.

“When you share your love, it doesn’t halve, it doubles, so let’s make sure we get back a ‘yes’.”

Senator Smith, who originally pushed for a free vote on same-sex marriage in Parliament, rather than a plebiscite or postal survey, highlighted the importance of putting aside differing political beliefs.

He reassured regional Liberal party voters that voting ‘yes’ was within conservative beliefs.

“It’s not often I get to share a stage with the Greens and Labor, but that demonstrates this isn’t about politics, it’s about people’s human stories,” he said.

“As a conservative, WA Liberal party senator, I say to Liberal party voters across Albany and the Great Southern that it is okay to vote ‘yes’, that standing up for equality before the law is a very sound conservative principle.

“Every Australian deserves the dignity and respect of their relationships.

“Voting ‘yes’ will be a vote for strong family values and equality before the law.

“I’m just hoping the people of O’ Connor deliver a resounding ‘yes’ vote, so every WA federal MP can go to Canberra and get this done.”

Event organiser Millie Reid was overwhelmed with the strong show of support at the rally.

“It was an incredible turnout given the atrocious weather,” she said.

“We were really impressed. We estimated about 200 people came down to the rally, which is just phenomenal.”

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Minister weighs in on five-star resort

IN the face of local opposition, regional development minister Alannah MacTiernan has swung her substantial political weight behind the luxury resort planned for Goode Beach.

Ms MacTiernan, a former state planning minister with wide experience overseeing coastal approvals processes, said the principle of “high-quality, low-rise, five-star accommodation in Albany” was “good and much-needed”.

“Obviously this project needs to go through all the planning and environmental approvals, but in principle the idea of having a high-quality tourism facility that I think will be built very sensitively is a good thing for this region,” she told The Weekender.

“We all know The Great Southern is one of the most spectacular regions in Australia. We all know there is a lack of five-star accommodation here and that we need to address that.”

Ms MacTiernan, who has a house in Albany, said it was not news to anyone that the Great Southern needed “critical mass”.

“We’ve got people down here that need jobs,” she said.

“We’re not talking about turning it into Perth, but we need to have some diversity in the accommodation types that are around and so the principle of having a development like the Bunker Bay development is a really positive one.

“From our experience, when you get developers that understand what they’re doing, they don’t want to destroy the natural environment either because that’s the goose that lays the golden egg.”

In a near-unanimous vote, members of The Frenchman Bay Association recently decided to oppose the 51-unit project between Lake Vancouver and Goode Beach.

Albany council candidate for Vancouver Ward, Matt Benson-Lidholm, a onetime ALP colleague of Ms MacTiernan’s in State Parliament, said he could not support the resort.

“My understanding is that this site is a biodiversity hotspot,” he said.

“It’s huge in terms of migratory birds that fly in from the Northern Hemisphere.”

Mr Benson-Lidholm, a regional development consultant who has inspected the site, also raised concerns about staff and tourist traffic along La Perouse Road if the resort were to go ahead.

Public comments on a structure plan for the project, drafted by the architects of the luxury Bunker Bay resort and dubbed by them ‘Vancouver Beach Resort’, closed on Monday.

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York Street’s talking billboard

AN ALBANY council candidate is taking it to the streets to spruik her wares ahead of the closure of local government polls on October 21.

Vicki Brown manages the Small Business Centre Great Southern on Chester Pass Road, and is one of six hopefuls vying to represent Frederickstown Ward.

Ms Brown’s last experience as a local pollie was as a Tambellup shire councillor two decades ago.

“A lot of people are telling my mum they saw her daughter out on the street,” she said from behind her corflute placard on the York Street median strip on Friday.

“My husband’s a lawn-mower man. A lot of people are telling him.”

Ms Brown said she had pounded the pavements from about 7.15am to 9am every day since candidate nominations closed on September 14.

“An old chap did stop me to ask if I thought someone who wants to be a councillor should be doing this,” she said.

“I said to him if someone said: ‘We’re gonna close your public library’, what would you prefer, somebody who would grab a placard and get out there and work with you, or someone who you can’t find?

“If you don’t want to get out amongst the people why would you want to be a local government councillor?”

Aside from York Street, Ms Brown’s favourite haunts are Lockyer Avenue, Campbell Road and Sanford Road.

She said she’d received “lots of toots, lots of thumbs up, the occasional flipping of the bird, the occasional thumbs down”.

“But that’s okay ‘cause that’s the beauty of a democracy,” she said.

“I’ve even told people it’s okay if they don’t vote for me, but make sure you vote because this is not compulsory.

“If you don’t have a say, you can’t have a complain, I reckon.”

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Cash for guns mooted with year-round amnesty

STATE and Great Southern authorities are hailing the national firearms amnesty that ended last week a great success, but an expert in Australian gun culture questions whether it will reduce crime.

This week, Police District Superintendent for Great Southern Dominic Wood confirmed 127 guns were handed in across the region during the three-month amnesty.

“That means that, across the Great Southern, 127 firearms are now in safe hands and potentially not in the hands of criminals,” Superintendent Wood said.

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank the community for their support and to the media for assisting us to promote this campaign and help us keep the community safe.

“Even though the amnesty is over, if any member of the public still comes across found and unwanted firearms across the Great Southern and wants to hand them in, they can still do so at any police station without fear of prosecution.”

A final breakdown of weapon types will not be available until next week but last week 29 rifles, 10 shotguns and five handguns had been handed in across the Great Southern.

Police Minister Michelle Roberts said the amnesty exceeded expectations, with more than 1200 guns surrendered across Western Australia.

“Disturbingly, among the surrendered items was an assortment of high-powered weapons and guns that had been modified, presumably for no other reason than criminal purposes,” Mrs Roberts said.

“I’m pleased to say these are now on the way to the scrap heap.”

But Edith Cowan University researcher Martin MacCarthy, who specialises in Australian gun culture, questioned whether the amnesty would translate to a reduction in crime.

“We’re certainly getting rid of unlicensed firearms and indeed I think the community is better off if that is the case,” Dr MacCarthy said.

“To suggest that it reduces crime is an odd one, given that the criminals who own unlicensed firearms are unlikely to be motivated to hand these things in.

“I think the people who would misuse them would not be the sort of people who would hand them in without an incentive.”

Dr MacCarthy said any amnesty should run constantly.

“It shouldn’t just go for one or two months and then stop,” he said.

“If there’s no downside to people handing these things in, then why wouldn’t you have it all day, every day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year so people can hand them in?”

Dr MacCarthy said there would be nothing like a cash incentive to get people to hand in their weapons.

“And indeed why not occasionally have, say, a $50 voucher given to anybody who hands in a weapon so you’re actually incentivising people,” Dr MacCarthy said.

“If you want to get rid of these things, which have the potential to take life, surely $50 is nothing when you think about it.”

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Councillors turn backs on ‘toxic environment’

ALL Denmark councillors up for re-election, including Mayor David Morrell, are turning their backs on social media as trolling spins out of control in the troubled Great Southern shire.

Councillor Peter Caron, up for re-election for Scotsdale/Shadforth Ward, said trolling had been part of Denmark’s political landscape for “a couple of years”.

“I’ve been a councillor since April 2016 and social media is pretty brutal on the Denmark Community Noticeboard,” Cr Caron said.

“As a sitting councillor, and a nominee, I’ve withdrawn from the social media community noticeboards because it’s not a productive forum.”

“I also did it for my own mental health because it was a toxic environment.”

Since October 2015, five councillors have resigned from the shire.

Before several of the current crop of councillors were elected, the shire was put on a State Government financial watch list, where it still languishes.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a troll as “a person who makes a deliberately offensive or provocative online post”.

Rather than lock horns with the trolls, Cr Caron has instead gone old-school to get his message across, with two rounds of flyers being delivered across his ward.

“It’s literally shoe leather and on the bicycle,” he said.

Cr Caron said there had been particularly “lively debate” on the Denmark Community Noticeboard Facebook page.

“A lot of people just don’t bother posting on there any more when it comes to council issues,” he said.

“They find the attacks quite personal sometimes, quite calculated, so they’ve just withdrawn.”

An introduction to the page states: “Anyone crossing the line through racist remarks, hate speech or anything of the like will be removed from the group!”

“People who are here to ‘troll’ and cause trouble will also be removed,” the page continues.

Returning officer for the Denmark election, Heather Marr, has stepped in to advise all candidates that election material, including Facebook pages, needs to be properly authorised.

An administrator of the Denmark Community Noticeboard, Janet Ross, said Ms Marr had also been in touch with administrators of her Facebook page.

“There has been an extreme amount of nastiness and slanderous comments about decisions the noticeboard has made,” Ms Ross said of the administrators’ decision to delete some vitriolic political posts.

“The comments are really personal and nasty.”

She said a perception in some local quarters that the noticeboard was a platform for the ‘Get Denmark Back on Track’ band of candidates, all former councillors, was simply not true.

“Any candidate going for the election is more than welcome to put up posts on the noticeboard,” she said.

Get Denmark Back on Track candidate Ian Osborne confirmed the notice board was not operated by that faction.

He said he had been a victim of trolling, which he did not condone and saw as a “destructive” force on local democracy.

Denmark mayor David Morrell said trolling had been a long-term issue in the shire.

He added that two main issues had plagued social media commentary on the election; people playing the person rather than the issue, and the transmission of inaccurate information.

“The shire councillors who are putting up again and the ex-councillors who are putting up are all people who’ve given a lot of their time to Denmark and they should be shown some respect from both sides,” Cr Morrell, who is running again for Town Ward, said.

“I think it’s a shame that all this stuff happens.

“Some of it’s not respectful and I think that’s pretty sad.”

He would not say if he would run again for Shire President if re-elected as a councillor.

“I’m not passionately campaigning,” he said.

“I think I’m reasonably well known.”

Councillor for Kent/Nornalup Ward, Clem Wright, also running again, said he was not on Facebook and preferred the face-to-face approach.

“I spend my time campaigning for this election out and about talking to real people in real situations and not wasting my time sitting in front of the computer monitor playing on Facebook,” Cr Wright said.

“I leave other people to engage in social media wars.

“But I do know it’s been an issue for other councillors and there’s been an ongoing campaign against the current council by other groups, including some ex-councillors who’ve been responsible for the most outrageous comments and the most outrageous misrepresentations of what the council has been doing.”

The fourth Denmark councillor who is running again, Mark Allen, said he rarely flirted with Facebook.

“I don’t believe I need to be on social media to get my point across,” Cr Allen said.

“It’s been out of control for a year.”

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Airstrip upgrade option flies for water bombers

UPGRADING a private airstrip north of Mount Barker to handle water bombers has been ditched in favour of a revamped public strip at Cranbrook that would provide better fire fighting coverage across the Great Southern.

At a meeting in Mt Barker today, CEOs of the shires of Cranbrook, Plantagenet, Kojonup and Broomehill-Tambellup will discuss if potential exists to upgrade the council-owned strip on the northern outskirts of the town of Cranbrook.

“We’d be receptive to the plan,” Cranbrook CEO Peter Northover told The Weekender.

“It’s been something that’s been dear to my heart for some time.

“It would be fantastic for the region.”

Mr Northover said that, working together, the four shires might attract state government funding to reform the Cranbrook grass strip as a gravel one, improve lighting, and build an apron and turn-around areas – which would allow the strip to handle water bombers.

“It’s probably one of the largest strips in the Great Southern,” he said of the 850m long runway.

“Adding water bombing operations would improve [bushfire] response times.

“[And the planned improvements] would open up the region for eco-tourism operations.”

Mr Northover said circuit-training operators might also be attracted, given the region’s “uncontested airspace and good visibility”.

He said upgrading the strip might also bring the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s Pilatus PC-12 single turbine aircraft into the picture to respond to serious highway crashes.

The planned Cranbrook upgrade follows a unanimous decision at last month’s Plantagenet shire meeting to jettison an earlier plan by that council to upgrade the grass airstrip at the former Karri Oak vineyard now owned by West Cape Howe Wines.

Plantagenet Shire President Ken Clements said $200,000 would be a “very ballpark” figure for the Cranbrook upgrade.

Cr Clements said that upgrading the larger Cranbrook strip would make more sense than revamping the smaller Mt Barker one.

“It is more centrally located and could service the Stirling Range, northern part of Plantagenet, out to Frankland, the northern part of Cranbrook, and the southern side of Kojonup,” he said.

Plantagenet councillor Brett Bell was the man who moved that the Cranbrook option be examined in favour of Mt Barker.

“The Karri Oak plan would have overlapped the range of the Albany water bombers,” he said.

“It’s all about making better use of taxpayer funded water bombers for more communities.

“And the Stirling Range National Park is really something that needs to be protected.”

An estimate provided in March by Plantagenet CEO Rob Stewart considered a minimum $139,000 would have been required to up- grade the Karri Oak airstrip.

The shire would also have needed to rent the strip off West Cape Howe Wines, adding $10,000 a year to the cost of the abandoned plan.

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Free jabs for teens

GREAT Southern teenagers aged 15 to 19 years are encouraged to get the free meningococcal ACWY vaccine to help protect them and others against the life-threatening disease.

As a result of the recent increase in serogroup W disease in WA, a statewide meningococcal ACWY vaccination program for teenagers has commenced.

WA Country Health Service’s Kathleen Smedley said meningococcal disease is an uncommon, life-threatening illness caused by a bacterial infection of the blood or the membranes that line the spinal cord and brain.

“The vaccine will help protect teenagers against meningococcal, and minimise the spread of the disease,” Ms Smedley said.

Meningococcal disease is most common in teenagers and young children, but can occur at any age.

In the Great Southern, the school-based immunisation team has offered vaccination to students in year 10, 11 and 12 at all high schools across the region.

Vaccinations are now available from local doctors for those 15 to 19 year olds who missed out at school or do not attend school.

For those not in the program’s age group, the meningococcal vaccine can be purchased from your doctor.

Vaccinations are also available at the Warden Avenue immunisation clinic, which is open at various times on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays via appointment.

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Masterpiece strikes gold

ZAC Caramia humbly accepted his second Southern Country Home of the Year Award at this year’s Master Builders Association Excellence Awards on Saturday night.

The Zac Caramia Homes build in Mt Melville has unparalleled views of Princess Royal Harbour and is a stunning addition to the suburb.

The three bedroom, three bathroom executive residence sits on a 900sqm block, but despite appearing flawless upon completion, it initially proved a difficult project.

“It was quite a challenge because of all the rock,” Mr Caramia said.

“The granite was higher than the floor level and blasting the rock out was a challenge, and it created a two-month delay.

“The rock levels were different to the blueprint, so overall it was a 19-month project.”

The home was on a turn-key contract, giving Mr Caramia complete control over the entire build before the keys were handed to the owners.

The judges commented on the evidence of a good collaboration between the client and builder, and the high-quality finish.

The award was one of seven that Zac Caramia Homes took away from the gala dinner at Albany’s Dog Rock Convention Centre.

Zac Caramia Homes previously won Country Home of the Year in 2009 for a build in Little Grove.

“It’s a great honour to receive this award,” Mr Caramia said.

“To achieve this level of quality and finish, and to be recognised for our efforts, is great.

“Winning awards like this gives clients the confidence to build with a builder.”

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FIFO drivers run risk with midnight dash

GREAT Southern FIFO staff doing a midnight run up Albany Highway before flying out to start work are engaging in risky business, the mayor of Albany has told a parliamentary committee.

Giving evidence at a hearing of State Parliament’s inquiry into regional airfares last month, Dennis Wellington expressed concern that most fly-in, fly-out workers from Albany drive rather than fly to Perth before departing for the north of the state.

He estimated the number of FIFO workers driving to Perth from Albany exceeded the 173 mainly Rio Tinto staff that fly between the two cities.

Mr Wellington explained that many workers due to start a morning shift drive to Perth for an early morning flight to avoid spending a night in the state capital at their own expense.

“If people are doing that, then it’s dead-set dangerous,” Mr Wellington said.

He told the parliamentary committee the problem lay mainly with workers at BHP, Fortescue Metals Group and Chevron sites, because unlike Rio Tinto those companies do not fly staff in from Albany.

His warning was echoed by a FIFO contractor who, until 12 months ago, had driven from Albany to Perth Airport and back for four years.

The man, who The Weekender cannot name, confirmed workers often left Albany around midnight to avoid spending about $200-a-night to stay at a Perth hotel.

He said fatigued workers would drive back to Albany straight after a long shift to avoid another $200 slug.

“I’ve got mates who do it and have done it in the past,” the worker said.

“That would be people working for BHP without a doubt, or FMG.”

He said the problem was not limited to Albany, with workers headed for the Pilbara driving to Perth from other places even further away, including Geraldton.

“One in 10 people on site would have a long drive,” he said.

“It’s a grey area.

“Everyone knows you shouldn’t do it, but it happens a lot.”

He said the major companies had fatigue management plans for their own staff, but contractors – who made up much of the FIFO contingent from Albany – often slipped through the cracks.

The worker said Rio staff flying from the Great Southern have Albany as their ‘point of hire’ and are funded to travel from there, but everybody else is deemed to be hired in Perth and must cover their own costs to Perth.

“Years ago when things were booming, if you came, say, from Albany, you could get companies to recognise that as your point of hire,” he said.

“But that’s not the case now.

“Conditions have dropped.”

One ray of hope is Mr Wellington’s revelation that a Rio executive last month expressed interest in a plan to pool resources with BHP, Chevron and FMG to fill a future shuttle flight that could regularly leave Albany for Busselton and then to the Pilbara.

“The interest started from a presentation [the cities of Albany and Busselton] made to Rio in Busselton,” Mr Wellington said.

“They said: ‘Well, we really don’t know. We’ve never been open to [pooling resources with the other companies] in the past, but in the future we would be’.
“In the not too distant future we want to approach the other companies because it’s in our best interests to have people working up north and living down here, because population is one of those things that we do need.”

Mr Wellington said such a flight would “absolutely” improve the viability of Albany Airport, which each year derives about $250,000, or 12 per cent, of its revenue from FIFO flights.

“If you had a decent plane, say a 737 that you could pick up 170 for one company and another 100 for another, well, they’re sharing the cost of the flight, which would make sense,” Mr Wellington said.

Fortescue CEO Nev Power said his company would be “open to exploring opportunities to increase the viability of flights from the southwest to the Pilbara”.

“The safety of our people is our number one priority, and we have clear guidelines on journey management and fatigue to ensure all of our team members get home safely at the end of every shift,” Mr Power added.

Chevron, BHP and Rio were contacted for comment.

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